The picture may seem familiar. Tumbling out of bed and stumbling around in the kitchen-you begin your day. But wait. It cannot begin properly without that daily ritual, the morning cup of coffee. The aroma swirls throughout the room. What can compare to the richness and fullness of that first cup of coffee?
Americans lead the world in coffee drinking, consuming an average of 3.4 cups per person per day (Pennybacker 18). Gourmet coffee houses are sprouting up all over the place. But what is the real story behind this dark brown liquid? Is it as innocent as it first seems-just a pleasant morning pick-me-up? Unfortunately it isn't. Much of today's coffee is grown in such a way that it damages the environment, although it has been proven that there are far less harmful methods.
Coffee grows only in the tropics, in Mexico, Central and Latin America, Indonesia, and Africa. The field must be at an altitude between 3000 and 5000 feet with a temperature between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. For optimum growth, coffee must have shade from nearby trees and overhead growth, but it also requires at least two hours of sunlight each day ("Shrinking Shadowland" 60). These are the only requirements nececssary for coffee to grow well.
Coffee comes from small green beans that are really pits of a fruit resembling a cherry. The morning coffee poured into a mug comes from a small tree (or bush) that grew for seven years before it bloomed and grew the fruit that held the beans. After one of these trees produced one pound of coffee, its life was over ("Shrinking" 61).
It was in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that coffee seeds from the Middle East took to the fertile soil of...
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...n one percent of the 6.3 billion pounds of coffee imported into the U.S. each year (Pennybacker 19).
The merits of full-sun coffee plantations don't even begin to measure up to the benefits of shade plantations. Shade plantations benefit both the workers and the environment. The few extra dollars paid for organic coffee might make the difference between seeing that black-throated green warbler in your yard again next spring or not.
Pennybacker, Mindy. "Habitat-Saving Habit." Audubon Nov./Dec. 1997: 18-19.
"Shrinking Shadowland." Utne Reader. Nov/Dec. 1994: 72.
"Why Migratory Birds Are Crazy for Coffee." Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. 1997. Smithsonian Institution. 24 April 2000 <http://www.si.edu/smbc/fxshts/fxsht1a.htm>.
Wille, Chris. "The Birds and the Beans." Audubon Nov./Dec. 1994: 58-64.
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